I first came across the Brother Cadfael chronicles as a teenager I loved them at the time I read as many as I could get my hands on I then put them out of my mind until very recently when I had a bit of time and wanted something familiar and re assuring to keep me company Brother Cadfael is re assuring a well weathered monk with knowledge of the world, of battles and romantic love, a gentle man, whose knowledge of medicinal herbs and ailments makes him even respectable Approachable, humble, but with wit and razor sharp intelligence What s not to like about Brother Cadfael Many of the recurring characters of the series are like that The Sheriff, Hugh Beringar, a man to be relied upon for his fine sense of justice and duty unencumbered by narrow minded interpretations of the law The Abbot, Brother Radulphus a very capable leader of the monastic order, and a man without obvious faults unwavering in his convictions, protector of the weak, a friend to Brother Cadfael, and keenly aware of the need for political shrewdness at a time of civil war as that time was for England.And this is what I dislike about the series, the near perfection of the main characters, the lack of any obvious faults or strife to weigh them down Brother Cadfael s world comes across as an idealised world where goodness always wins because the main actors are fundamentally good Of course, there is evil in this world too, there are thieves and murderers and those who betray their friends or their causes, but the fabric of the world is never irreparably damaged by their actions because justice is always restored at the end.Enthused as I was with the series in my adolescence, I now feel dissatisfied with Ellis Peter s world And at the same time, I m irresistibly drawn to it its tranquility, peace, and predictability Ellis Peters wrote to a recipe a well ordered world inhabited by decent human beings striving for the best Her recipe plays on our desire for justice and goodness to emerge triumphant but it shoves under the carpet moral puzzles, quandaries and human weaknesses as well as the fact that justice is an elusive entity that is not always restored at the end. Having now read An Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters, I ve completed 12 books in the Cadfael historical mystery series and as always, have found the story to be entertaining and engrossing Cadfael is an ex Crusader, now a Benedictine monk who acts as herbalist sometimes medical assistant at the Benedictine monastery at Shrewsbury This 11th book in the Cadfael takes place in 1141, during the continuing struggles for the English throne between Empress Maud and King Stephen.The battles themselves take place a distance from Shrewsbury in this story but one of the results is to bring two monks seeking refuge from the battles around Winchester Brothers Humilis and Fidelus arrive and are given sanctuary at the monastery Humilis is another old Crusader, who was injured seriously in the Crusades Fidelus is a mute who has attached himself to Humilis as his care taker Humilis s injuries are aggravated by the journey to Shrewsbury and it s evident to Cadfael and the Edmund who is basically the monastery doctor, that Humilis has not long to live and they want only to keep him in comfort.Arriving also at the Monastry is Nicholas, a knight who has been participating in the battles, and was previously Humilis s squire Due to his injuries, Humilis had called off an arranged marriage 3 years previously Nicholas wishes Humilis s permission to ask for the lady s hand in marriage and it is granted.This is the crux of the story, with Nicholas s journey first to ask her hand in marriage and then when it s evident she has disappeared, purportedly to become a nun, to find her It s an interesting story all around Cadfael plays a relatively minor role through the first part as it involves Nicholas s quest, but as the story builds, he plays a important role, especially when it actually comes down to solving the mystery There is a side story involving some other brothers, which could have been left out, I think, but it doesn t hurt the story to have it there.The final twist, although I sort of had it figured out, was very interesting and different One of my favorite Cadfaels so far and I m glad I still have a few left on my book shelf to enjoy 4 stars The war between vying rulers continues in this installment of the Brother Cadfael mystery series After a fire has razed an abbey in Winchester, two monks straggle in, one obviously weak and injured Brothers Humilis and Fidelis are given refuge, but it s not long before the search is on for Brother Humilis former fiancee, who chose to become a nun after his crusades injury, which has rendered him unable to keep a manor nor a wife, released her from the agreement made when she was only five.This is one of the better Cadfael books, and if you have not yet read any, while you can pick up the series at any time, because each mystery is self contained, it is best read in order as both the war and the characters are growing older, and if not that, at least read the first two books before any others. An Excellent Mystery, a phrase taken from the Solemnization of Matrimony from the Book of Common Prayer, is a great name for this episode in the Cadfael saga though there are no actual weddings here to solemnize.Instead this story deals with a man who becomes betroathed to a much younger girl before departing on crusade After gaining some fame while on crusade, the man is grievously injured He breaks the betroathal and joins a Benedictine order as Brother Humilus His intended bride decides to take the veil as well and journeys under escort to a distant city to do so Three years later and the civil war sees the man s abbey destroyed and Humilis, with a mute young brother Fidelis in tow, appears in Shrewsbury A mystery develops when it s discovered tha the man s fiance never made it to her intended abbey Again, as with so much of Ellis Peters Cadfael saga, the mystery is secondary to the picture we develop of life in that time It s a bit like watching as a grandmother assembles a jigsaw puzzle from a box with no cover While we re uncertain of the final picture, the pieces give their clues and the old woman is confident enough that we have no doubt that we ll see the final picture in the end and meanwhile we re content to appreciate the skill with which she assembles it This one was never adapted for television and that s probably a good thing Suffice it to say, it s worth the time it takes to read the book, and in the company of Cadfael and a cast of regulars that we ve grown to love, it s a satisfying and entertaining journey. An Excellent Mystery is anything but Over the course of the series, the plots have become increasing slow and the mystery itself has taken longer and longer to appear While Cadfael books are not exactly action packed, An Excellent Mystery positively dragged, and aside from a little odd behavior nothing mysterious even occurred until halfway through, and many of the clues were completely transparent There are problems involving point of view, with information being revealed to reader that the main characters could not possibly know an unwelcome change from earlier books and Cadfael appears very little and does very little The thing that almost made me put An Excellent Mystery down and it is the first Cadfael book I have even come close to putting down was Brother Urian, who s subplot was disturbingly full of sexual harassment and homosexuality and added almost nothing to the plot except lots of long, awkward and repetitive monologs Since the Cadfael books do not have to be read in order, I would suggest that all but die hard fans skip this disappointing entry in the series. Ellis Peters Cadfael novels are all of them outstandingly entertaining and edifying works This one, however, is astounding in its beauty, mystery, and breath taking conclusion The phrase excellent mystery comes from a prayer in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer order of service for marriage, and it is worth reading the whole prayer as a background for Peters excellent mystery about that most excellent mystery O God, who by thy mighty power hast made all things of nothing who also after other things set in order didst appoint, that out of man created after thine own image and similitude woman should take her beginning and, knitting them together, didst teach that it should never be lawful to put asunder those whom thou by Matrimony hadst made one O God, who hast consecrated the state of Matrimony to such an excellent mystery, that in it is signified and represented the spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his Church Look mercifully upon these thy servants, that both this man may love his wife, according to thy Word, as Christ did love his spouse the Church, who gave himself for it, loving and cherishing it even as his own flesh, and also that this woman may be loving and amiable, faithful and obedient to her husband and in all quietness, sobriety, and peace, be a follower of holy and godly matrons O Lord, bless them both, and grant them to inherit thy everlasting kingdom through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen. From Audible This Is The Eleventh Chronicle Of Brother Cadfael, Of The Benedictine Abbey Of Saint Peter And Saint Paul, At Shrewsbury In The Year Of Our Lord , August Comes In Golden As A Lion, And Two Monks Ride Into The Benedictine Abbey Of Saint Peter And Saint Paul Bringing With Them Disturbing News Of Warand A Mystery The Strangers Tell How The Strife Between The Empress Maud And King Stephan Has Destroyed The Town Of Winchester And Their Priory Now Brother Humilis, Who Is Handsome, Gaunt, And Very Ill, And Brother Fidelis, Youthful, Comely And Totally Mute Must Seek Refuge At Shrewsury And From The Moment He Meets Them, Brother Cadfael Senses Something Deeper Than Their Common Vows Binds These Two Good Brothers What The Link Is He Can Only Guesswhat It Will Lead To Is Beyond His Imagining But As Brother Humilis Health Fails, And Nothing Can Stop Death S Lengthening Shade, Brother Cadfael Faces A Poignant Test Of His Discretion And His Beliefs As He Unravels A Secret So Great It Can Destroy A Life, A Future, And A Holy Order Peters interesting variation on her usual plot, with refugees from a burned abbey, a formerly military man with a dreadful wound and his young helper, plus an ardent lover from afar on a search for a missing woman, and a look at the horrors of war She takes on all the limitations on English women in Cadfael s time, stressing ownership, value, etc while showing just how much real women differ from the frail creatures in need of care imagined by men It s really quite startling, the contrast between the few women we see in the text and the attitudes of even a Cadfael, usually our modern transplant in the twelfth century.I m sure I ve read this before, I spent so much of the story waiting for the big reveal On audio through Hoopla from my public library. A pair of monks, refugees from the destruction of their abbey in the fighting and destruction at Winchester, arrive at Shrewsbury, one obviously dying, the other, his devoted companion, mute A noblewoman, supposedly having taken the veil three years ago, is revealed to be missing and may have been murdered for her wealth A tormented man, recently joining the abbey, has brought his unhappy past with him Brother Cadfael must unpick this tangled skein of secrets, devotion, inner conflict and hidden identities.Brother Cadfael pronounced Cad file has definitely entered the ranks of great fiction detectives alongside Sherlock Holmes and Lord Peter Wimsey But these stories are than just murder mysteries in medieval drag Ellis Peters actually lived in Shrewsbury, England, where Cadfael s monastery of St Peter and Paul can still be visited Her knowledge of the land and people and history permeates her work and gives her the incredible gift of transporting her reader into the past You really do feel as though you are in that long lost world lit only by fire, where it s quiet and green and life moves at a pace most people can be happy in.Cadfael is a suitably complex man He s from Wales, but now living in England though Wales is not very far away He was once a soldier, but now he s a monk He s lived a full life, now he wants to be quiet But he also has a strong sense of right and justice and refuses to compromise on these things, even when it means getting himself in trouble He s also picked up a lot of knowledge, especially of herbology and medicine and somehow for the time logical analysis that stands him in good stead as a solver of mysteries.Another charming step along the journey of Cadfael A duty once assumed is a duty to the end My favorite Cadfael story All the elements familiar to Peters readers death, mystery, and sleuthing set amid a historic civil war, medieval culture, Welsh borderlands, and young love but Peters mixes the ingredients a little differently this time To me he has been all the sons I shall never father Peters best investigation of what constitutes a life well lived A man returns from the Crusades, as did Cadfael himself, to retire from the world into the Benedictine order This noble is also ruined of body As he fades, those around him seek to ease his earthly and emotional burdens, including the disappearance of his espoused bride three years previous His spirit outgrows his body there is no room for it in this fragile parcel of bones Murder mysteries all involve death Or do they Yes, someone dies here, but was someone murdered three years previous Why Where How And most important by whom Happiness consists in small things, not in great The Cadfael mysteries are set at the Benedictine monetary in Shrewsbury, England, during the twelfth century civil war called the Anarchy An early battle occurs at Shrewsbury, convenient for Peters starting her series When the action moves to Winchester, Peters contrives to bring Winchester to Cadfael, since he can t go there But what can a man do, or a woman either, but use what comes to hand The Cadfael stories are best read in order, but if you have a formidable to read list, don t miss this one Nothing need ever be said where everything was known and understood.